(note: this isn't Leah Gordon's photo. I didn't use any of her photos in this post due to copyright reasons. Image above: photo courtesy of IOM Haiti on flickr, found through creative commons)
First of all, it was a very inspirational talk.
Leah talked a bit about Haiti's history which I found really interesting (especially since I'm reading Isabel Allende's book 'Island beneath the sea' which plays around the time when the slaves rose up and finally put an end to slavery in what used to be 'Saint-Domingue').
A lot of her photographs show portraits of people celebrating the Haitian carnival (Kanaval), which made her talk about being critical with the way we document and show other nationalities. If you look critically at images you will find that quite often photographers show what people expect to see, what they think sells, and what the common perception of a specific nation is.
So for example relating to Haiti (where Voodoo is very common) you will often find photos showing people rolling their eyes (as that is what first comes to your mind when thinking of Voodoo ceremonies).
It really makes you think about your ethics, and look critically at how people are portrayed. And it also makes you think about how we imagine certain cultures and people to be like, and whether our idea of someone else's nationality/character is really true.
But then what is truth? (I won't got any further into that now, but maybe some other time?!)
Leah also mentioned August Sander as an inspiration for the way she took her photos and for the direction the whole project took (she worked on it for 16 years!).
August Sander was one of the first photographers whose work and life I really looked into. I first came across him in my arts class when I was still in school, and did some research on his work.
His style kept inspiring me, so I ended up writing an essay about his work last year.
I would say that for me he is one of those photographers you can always relate to, and who is always in the back of your mind as an inspiration.
Finally let's talk a bit about one of the main lessons I learned from that night.
When I walked home after the talk I realised that no matter what you want to do you have to be inspired. You have to go to talks, events, see exhibitions, etc. It's the only way to find out where you want to be heading. You'll either be inspired in a good way, and you will find that it is exactly what you want to do.
Or you will realise that it isn't what you want to do.
Both is good - it's all about getting to see different perspectives, and deciding what is right for you.
For me Leah's talk was inspirational in at least one way. It made me feel passionate about pursuing my own projects, and it got me excited about researching into other cultures.